The central principle of inoculation theory is that when individuals are presented with a weakened form of a persuasive attack against an existing attitude, they become inoculated against future attacks to that attitude. To address a gap in the literature regarding inoculation mechanisms, we used focus groups (Study 1) to allow participants to describe resistance processes following inoculation. Guided by processing pathways that mirror those in established persuasion frameworks, participants described some of the variables that influence, occur during, and result from, their processing of inoculation material. We applied these findings by presenting a separate group of participants (Study 2) with a healthy nutrition inoculation message and studying their processing responses on the basis of variables identified in Study 1 and through related research. Analyses revealed that participants varied in their elaborative processing of the message and that elaboration was positively associated with desirable resistance processes (e.g. post-inoculation planning, talk, and information searching). By advancing our understanding of the ways through which inoculation messages prepare individuals for attitudinal attacks, these findings provide important future research directions and may inform effective inoculation message design.